Easy political pickings for Republicans on the Iraq fiasco as several GOP lawmakers are criticizing the Obama administration for cutting and running.
Sen. John McCain said Thursday that President Barack Obama’s entire national security team should resign over the resurgence of Islamic militants in Iraq.
“Everybody in his national security team, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ought to be replaced,” the Arizona Republican told reporters ahead of a classified Senate Armed Services Committee briefing on the deteriorating situation in Iraq. “It’s a colossal failure of American security policy.”
The Sunni militant group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, vowed Thursday to march into Baghdad after overrunning Iraq’s government forces in Tikrit and Mosul.
(Also on POLITICO: Officials to brief Senate panel on Iraq)
The offensive is sparking a wave of Republican criticism over Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2011 — and concerns that the U.S. gains in the Iraq war were about to completely evaporate.
Less than three years after the end of the U.S. war in Iraq, the Obama administration and members of Congress are now mulling whether the U.S. has to re-engage militarily in order to save the gains made during the eight-year war that saw more than 4,000 U.S. troops killed.
“There is no scenario where we can stop the bleeding in Iraq without American air power,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “It is my worst fear come true. If the president is willing to adjust his policies, I’m willing to help him.”
Inside the secure briefing room in the Capitol’s basement, lawmakers were reported to be shocked by administration briefers who said that up to four entire divisions of the Iraqi military folded in an instant — allowing insurgent troops to pour into the city of Mosul and other cities near the border with Turkey.
Who lost Iraq — if, indeed, it is lost? The war was largely won when George Bush left office. The problem then and now was the political situation. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s has spent the last decade systematically trying to exclude Sunnis and Kurds from the best jobs in civilian government and the military. The police are corrupt. Bureaucrats glory in raking in the baksheesh. The interior ministry is a nest of Iranian spies and sympathizers.
if you think the US government is dysfunctional, the Iraqi parliament makes us look like the soul of comity. In 2011, the Maliki government tried to arrest the Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, on charges of murder and terrorism. Hashimi fled and eventually made his way to Turkey where he has found asylum. The Iraqi Shias tried him in abstentia anyway and found him guilty.
In parliament, gridlock would be an improvement. Nothing ever gets done and the whole bunch of them take a 6 week vacation during the summer because of the heat.
You would think that a national crisis like the one occurring now would motivate them to do something. The vote scheduled for yesterday to grant the request by Prime Minister Maliki to give him emergency powers had to be delayed because not enough lawmakers bothered to show up to make a quorum.
President Obama can be criticized for cutting off negotiations for a new status of forces agreement prematurely. But Maliki and the Iraqi parliament stubbornly refused to change their position on giving immunity to US soldiers from Iraqi prosecution, forcing Obama’s hand. Either way, there would only have been 10,000 US soldiers in Iraq training the army and police even if a new status of forces agreement had been achieved. Would they have made a difference?
“It’s a desperate situation. It’s moving quickly. It appears to me that the chickens are coming home to roost for our policy of not leaving anybody there to be a stabilizing force,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership.
He said senators were informed of the instant “collapse of four of the 17 divisions without any apparent effort to push back.”
“Some Iraqi troops have gone to work with their uniforms on with civilian clothes under their uniforms,” Blunt said. “That’s a bad sign.”
I understand the political necessity of criticizing the president for what’s happening in Iraq. But if you’re going to blame someone for the debacle, blame Maliki. Obama didn’t freeze out Sunnis and Kurds from power and wealth for a decade. He’s not responsible for the rampant corruption that has sapped the will of civilians and soldiers to resist the Islamist onslaught. You might make the case that continued training by Americans would have improved the discipline of the army. But it wouldn’t have improved morale that was at rock bottom due to favoritism and corruption.
What Obama should be criticized is the delay in any assistance we eventually send to Iraq. Maliki has been begging for air strikes since at least March and the administration has turned a deaf ear. Now, with a serious crisis for the Iraqi government, the president will probably act.
But that crisis may not have gotten as serious as it is if we had helped months ago.